Disney Names Justin Connolly President, Media Distribution, Combines Units

The Walt Disney Co. will combine all of its media sales and channel distribution into one organization under Justin Connolly, who has been named president, Media Distribution.  Based in New York, Connolly will report to Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer and International segment.

Connolly’s appointment comes just days after the abrupt departure of Disney veteran Janice Marinelli from her position as president of Global Content Sales & Distribution for The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer & International (DTCI) segment, ending a 34-year career at the media giant.

“By combining all of our media, affiliate, content and syndication sales, and distribution efforts into the Direct-to-Consumer and International segment, we continue to transform the ways in which we distribute the great stories and characters created by The Walt Disney Company’s studios and media networks,” said Mayer in a statement. “I’ve had the great pleasure of working with Justin for many years and believe his experience makes him well-suited to drive Disney’s media sales and distribution efforts. He is a consummate professional, a fantastic dealmaker, and a great leader.”

“I am excited to have the opportunity to lead the industry’s best multi-platform sales and distribution teams,” said Connolly in a statement. “Through our combined efforts we will achieve the company’s vision for an even stronger, more agile organization that is better able to pivot and capitalize on the many opportunities present in today’s fast-changing and increasingly complex global marketplace.”

In his new role, Connolly will spearhead global app distribution deals for Disney’s direct-to-consumer streaming services — including Disney+, ESPN+ and Movies Anywhere. Connolly will also be responsible for the distribution of film and television programming via home entertainment, broadcasting platforms, digital platforms, SVOD and pay networks.

He will continue to oversee all aspects of North American distribution, affiliate marketing and affiliate-related business operations for all the services provided by Disney and ESPN media networks including, among other services: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPNU, SEC Network, ACC Network, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, FX, FXX, FXM, National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild, and related WATCH, HDTV, video-on-demand, interactive television and retransmission consent agreements for Disney’s eight-owned ABC stations. He will also continue to have oversight of the ABC Affiliate Relations and Marketing team.

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To ensure alignment between content licensing and direct-to-consumer priorities, a Disney release stated Connolly will work closely with DTCI’s international content sales teams who now report directly into their respective regional leaders. Connolly will have final approval on all content sales agreements for Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox Film, Fox Animation, Disneynature, ABC Studios, ABC Entertainment, National Geographic, FX Productions, 20th Century Fox Television, WABC, Freeform, Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior.

Connolly previously served as EVP, affiliate sales and marketing, Disney and ESPN Media Networks — overseeing all aspects of domestic distribution, ABC affiliate relations, affiliate marketing and affiliate-related business operations for all the services provided by Disney and ESPN media networks. In June 2017, he added oversight of ESPN’s strategy and business development teams to his portfolio.

Prior to that, Connolly served as SVP, college networks, and under his direction, SEC Network was the most successful network launch in cable history. Before working with the college networks, Connolly served as SVP, national accounts for Disney & ESPN Media Networks. He was responsible for all domestic distribution and licensing efforts for Disney’s linear networks, broadband and VOD content within the Media Networks Group.

He joined ESPN in 2003 and served in various capacities including director, ESPN strategy and operations, where he helped ESPN with its long-term affiliate negotiations. In August 2004 he was promoted to VP, distribution strategy. Prior to joining ESPN, Connolly worked in the corporate finance group for Disney’s corporate treasury department in Burbank, Calif.

Connolly, a Boston native, graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics in 1998 and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in 2003.

Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer and International segment includes Disney’s international media operations stretching from Europe to Asia to Latin America and the company’s direct-to-consumer streaming businesses, including Hulu, Hotstar, ESPN+, and the upcoming Disney+ service set to debut in the United States Nov. 12. DTCI also houses global advertising sales and ad technology for Disney media properties, which include ABC, ESPN, Freeform, FX Networks, National Geographic, and the Disney Channels. The xompany’s media distribution operations — including global distribution of film and TV content to Disney+, Hulu and other third-party platforms, as well as Movies Anywhere — are also part of the Direct-to-Consumer & International business segment.

Analyst: Netflix to Weather Content Migration — For Now

With Netflix set to release second-quarter (ended June 30) financial results on July 17, Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles and longtime Netflix bear, contends the subscription streaming video pioneer will add 5.3 million subscribers, including 300,000 in the United States.

The tally surprisingly exceeds Wall Street consensus and Netflix’s projection of 5 million new subs, including 4.7 million international subs.

Pachter argues that despite media attention to the departures of popular TV reruns “Friends” and “The Office” from Netflix in two years, the service has more than enough content in the pipeline and willingness to spend big on new programming to weather the storm.

“Friends” and “The Office” account for an estimated 5% of all viewing on Netflix, leaving other content that accounts for 95% of viewing on Netflix in place.

Indeed, Netflix launched 21 new shows in Q2, excluding 13 returning series. That compared to six news series and 17 returning series in the previous-year period.

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At the same time, content from NBC Universal, Fox, Disney and Warner Bros. currently accounts for upwards of 65% of Netflix viewing hours, according to Wedbush.

Pachter expects the migration of third-party content away from Netflix to competing platforms to be relatively slow and is unclear whether the service can successfully replace it with quantity and quality to keep its subscribers loyal.

“We think it is likely that Netflix will pay whatever it takes to attract high quality content and believe its competitors will be slow to gain scale,” Pachter wrote in a note. “Thus, we expect the status quo to be largely maintained until the end of 2021. For now, Netflix provides tremendous value for its subscribers.”

‘Dumbo’ Remains Perched Atop Disc Sales Charts

Disney’s live-action version of Dumbo held onto the No. 1 spot on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended July 6.

The remake of the 1941 animated classic debuted at No. 1 a week earlier.

Another Disney-distributed movie, the superhero blockbuster Captain Marvel, held onto No. 2 on both charts in its fourth week in stores.

The top newcomer at No. 3 on both charts was Lionsgate’s Escape Plan: The Extractors, the direct-to-video third film in the “Escape Plan” action franchise starring Sylvester Stallone. The theatrically released first film was released in 2013, followed in 2018 by the direct-to-video Escape Plan 2: Hades.

Paramount’s animated Wonder Park slipped to No. 4 on the overall sales chart and No. 5 on the Blu-ray chart.

The No. 4 Blu-ray was Disney’s “Signature Collection” Blu-ray re-release of the 1950 animated classic Cinderella.

Rounding out the top five overall at No. 5 was Warner’s Aquaman, which was the No. 7 Blu-ray.

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On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended July 7, Escape Plan: The Extractors debuted at No. 1.

Dumbo moved up to No. 2, while Captain Marvel slipped to No. 3 after three weeks as the top rental.

The Universal horror film Us dropped to No. 4.

Universal’s The Best of Enemies debuted at No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 7-6-19
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 7-7-19
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 7-6-19
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 7-6-19
Sales Report for Week Ended 7-6-19

Ampere: U.S. Subscription Streaming Video Growth Resumes

Netflix subscriber growth in the United States may be slowing, but the domestic market for subscription streaming video is poised for expansion, according to new data from Ampere Analysis.

The London-based research group said growth in SVOD subscriptions in the U.S. resumed after peaking from Q3 2016 and Q1 2018.

Much of that renewed growth has come from Hulu topping 25 million subscribers earlier this year, in addition to pending service launches from Disney, Apple, WarnerMedia and NBC Universal.

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Although the proportion of Internet users in Europe who have a SVOD subscription is lower than in the U.S., there continues to be healthy sub growth across the Atlantic.

“The growth in SVOD subscribers in both regions will come as welcome news, particularly to those looking to enter the market this year such as Disney and Apple as it shows there is still room for growth and the opportunity to take a share of the revenue,” Minal Modha, consumer research lead at Ampere, said in a statement.

Indeed, about 80% of Internet users in Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have at least one SVOD subscription. Japan and France are the only countries where fewer than 50% have a subscription.

Subscriptions are being driven by younger demographics, with those under 35 over-indexing in each market except Saudi Arabia where it is driven by those aged 45 years and over.

All but two markets analyzed enjoyed subscriber growth between Q3 2018 and Q1 2019, with Saudi Arabia (+8.1%), Australia (+6.8%) and Denmark (+6.3%) spearheading expansion.

The Netherlands and Japan are the only markets where subscriber growth has stagnated since Q3 2018.

‘Dumbo’ Remake Flies to Top of Disc Sales Charts

Disney’s live-action version of Dumbo easily debuted at No. 1 on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended June 29.

Directed by Tim Burton, the remake of the 1941 animated classic earned $114.6 million at the domestic box office.

Another Disney-distributed movie, the superhero blockbuster Captain Marvel, slipped to No. 2 on both charts after two weeks in the top spot.

Paramount’s animated Wonder Park held onto the No. 3 spot on the overall sales chart and slipped a spot to No. 4 on the Blu-ray chart.

Universal Pictures’ Us in its second week dropped to No. 4 on the overall sales chart and N0. 5 on the Blu-ray chart, after debuting in the second spot a week earlier.

No. 5 on the overall disc sales chart and No. 3 on the Blu-ray chart was Disney’s “Signature Collection” Blu-ray re-release of the 1950 animated classic Cinderella.

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Blu-ray Disc formats accounted for 75% of total unit sales for Dumbo, which had 9% of its total sales come from 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc.

On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended June 30, Captain Marvel held onto the top spot for a third week.

Us took No. 2 for the second week.

No. 3 went to a new release, Lionsgate’s The Poison Rose. Wonder Park slipped a spot to No. 4, while Dumbo debuted at No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 6-29-19
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 6-30-19
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 6-29-19
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 6-29-19
Sales Report for Week Ended 6-29-19
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 7-1-19

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Marketing Executive James Finn Exiting

James Finn, co-head of marketing at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, is exiting the studio after nearly 20 years.

Fox, which was acquired by The Walt Disney Co. for $71.3 billion, has been streamlining staff, including executives, as a result of the March 2019 merger. So far there have been three rounds of layoffs; departing executives in the first round, which happened immediately following the closure of the acquisition, included Mike Dunn, the longtime home entertainment president.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Finn had been let go or chose to depart on his own. Finn was known for his strong relationships with the media, innovative approach to marketing and passion for all things high-tech, particularly in the areas of virtual reality and augmented reality.

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In a parting e-mail sent to colleagues and the media obtained by Media Play News, Finn wrote, “For nearly 20 years I’ve called Fox my home, and I’ve read many of these ‘peace out’ emails. While some have been inspiring, sweet, funny and kind, nearly all of them have been too long. So I’ll try to break that trend. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in every step of the way. Thank you to my colleagues, my mentors, my family, my friends and my team for making it so much fun.”

Finn, known for his sense of humor, in a postscript quipped, “I intended to keep it shorter but I had already hit the send button before I could edit it down.”

Last year, Finn was selected as one of Media Play News‘ digital drivers. “Finn works across two distinct business units at 20th Century Fox,” the article noted. “As co-head of marketing for home entertainment, he leads marketing communications strategies in the rapidly developing digital and disc transactional businesses. As the head of marketing for FoxNext, he oversees marketing across interactive and immersive experiences and games.”

Finn began his 20th Century Fox career in Oct. 2000 as a publicist in New York, where according to his LinkedIn profile he “leveraged expansive media relations to secure widespread press coverage for noteworthy films, including Cast Away, Moulin Rouge, Ice Age, Minority Report, X2, The Day After Tomorrow, I, Robot, and Master and Commander.”

In June 2003, he was named VP, national publicity, for Fox Searchlight Pictures, and in August 2009 he moved west to California to succeed Steve Feldstein as SVP, corporate and marketing communications, at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

In April 2013 he was promoted to EVP and co-head of marketing for both 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and the Fox Innovation Lab.

Finn assumed additional duties, as EVP and head of marketing at FoxNext, in May 2017.

Prior to 20th Century Fox, he worked at Miramax and NBC News, both in New York.

Finn holds a bachelor of business administration degree from Pace University’s Lubin School of Business.

‘Captain Marvel’ Tops Redbox Disc Rentals for Third Week

There wasn’t much movement among the top titles on Redbox’s disc rental and on demand charts the week ended June 30.

Disney’s Captain Marvel spent its third consecutive week in the No. 1 spot on the Redbox disc rental chart, which tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at the company’s more than 40,000 red kiosks.

The horror film Us, from Universal Pictures, spent its second week at No. 2. The horror film is director Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out.

The top newcomer on the disc chart at No. 3 was Lionsgate’s The Poison Rose, a crime thriller featuring John Travolta and his daughter alongside Morgan Freeman.

Paramount’s animated Wonder Park slipped to No. 4 on the physical rental chart.

Disney’s live-action remake of Dumbo debuted at No. 5 after a $114 million run at the domestic box office.

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The Redbox On Demand chart, which tracks digital transactions, including both electronic sellthrough and streaming rentals, saw Us remain in the top spot for a second consecutive week.

The Upside, from STX and Universal Pictures, jumped up to No. 2, while Wonder Park dropped to No. 3.

Sony Pictures’ Holmes & Watson moved up to No. 4, while Lionsgate’s Five Feet Apart slid to No. 5.

The Disney-distributed titles are among several releases not available through Redbox On Demand.

Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ended June 30:

  1. Captain Marvel — Disney
  2. Us — Universal
  3. The Poison Rose — Lionsgate
  4. Wonder Park — Paramount
  5. Dumbo (2019) Disney
  6. The Upside — Universal
  7. A Madea Family Funeral — Lionsgate
  8. Five Feet Apart — Lionsgate
  9. Isn’t It Romantic — Warner
  10. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World — Universal

 

Top Digital, Redbox On Demand, Week Ended June 30:

  1. Us — Universal
  2. The Upside — STX
  3. Wonder Park — Paramount
  4. Holmes & Watson — Sony Pictures
  5. Five Feet Apart — Lionsgate
  6. A Madea Family Funeral — Lionsgate
  7. Isn’t It Romantic — Warner
  8. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald — Warner
  9. Aquaman — Warner
  10. What Men Want — Paramount

‘Captain Marvel’ Holds Onto Position Atop Disc Sales Charts

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel maintained the No. 1 spot on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc chart the week ended June 22.

The Disney-distributed superhero blockbuster had debuted in the top spot a week earlier.

The week’s top newcomer was Universal Pictures’ Us, which debuted at No. 2 on both charts, selling about one-third as many copies as Captain Marvel.

The latest horror film from director Jordan Peele earned $175 million at the domestic box office, about the same haul of his first film, 2017’s Get Out.

Another newcomer, Paramount’s Wonder Park, landed at No. 3 on both charts. The animated film, about a little girl bringing the amusement park of her imagination to life, earned $45.2 million in U.S. theaters.

The No. 4 title on the overall sales chart was Lionsgate’s A Madea Family Funeral, which was No. 13 on the Blu-ray chart.

DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was No. 5 on the overall sales chart and took No. 4 on the Blu-ray chart.

No. 5 on the Blu-ray chart was the original Toy Story, which was recently released as a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

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Blu-ray Disc formats accounted for 62% of first-week Us sales, while 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray comprised 17% of the film’s total unit sales. Wonder Park had 56% of its sales come from Blu-ray.

The second week of Captain Marvel had 70% of unit sales from Blu-ray, with 16% of its total sales coming from 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

The Media Play News rental chart for the week ended June 23 also had Captain Marvel at No. 1 for a second-consecutive week.

Us debuted at No. 2, followed by Wonder Park at No. 3.

Lionsgate’s Five Feet Apart dropped to No. 4, while Universal’s The Upside slipped to No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 6-22-19
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 6-23-19
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 6-22-19
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 6-22-19
Sales Report for Week Ended 6-22-19
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 6-24-19

 

‘Avengers: Endgame’ Sets FandangoNow Preorder Record

Comcast’s FandangoNow June 26 disclosed that preorders for the Disney/Marvel Studios superhero movie Avengers: Endgame set a record for the transactional VOD service.

“With the new bonus features, Endgame will be one of the top home entertainment titles when it debuts [on July 30],” Erik Davis, managing editor at Fandango, said in a statement.

According to a Fandango survey of more than 1,000 people planning to watch Endgame at home, 97% own other Marvel movies; 89% plan to show the movie to friends, family, or significant others at home; 88% believe the title ranks as a classic, and 86% previously viewed Endgame at least once in theaters.

On June 28, Endgame will expand its run on the big screen as part of an Avengers: Endgame “Bring Back” event at select theaters.

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Consumers who buy a movie ticket receive an exclusive piece of Avengers art and will be treated to a video introduction by director Anthony Russo, an unfinished deleted scene from the film and a special sneak peek from the upcoming Sony Pictures/Marvel Studios feature Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Tickets to the “Bring Back” event are available now on Fandango.

‘Avengers: Endgame’ Arriving Digitally July 30, on Disc Aug. 13 From Disney

Disney will release Marvel Studios’ blockbuster Avengers: Endgame digitally July 30 (including Movies Anywhere), and on Blu-ray, DVD, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and on demand Aug. 13.

The 22nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe concludes the first “Avengers” saga that has spanned 11 years, beginning with 2008’s Iron Man. The film, in which the Avengers take one final stand against Thanos, has earned $834.9 at the domestic box office. Its $2.75 billion worldwide box office tally is the highest-ever for a film in its initial theatrical run (without a re-release).

Bonus features include a tribute to Stan Lee; the tale of Robert Downey Jr.’s casting as Iron Man; the evolution of Captain America; Black Widow’s dramatic story arc; directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s experience at the helm of both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame; the making of an epic battle scene with the women of the MCU; the creation of Bro Thor; deleted scenes; a gag reel and more.

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The digital release, available in 4K Ultra HD, HD and SD, offers access to an exclusive extra highlighting the love story of Steve Rogers (Captain America) and Peggy Carter.

Consumers can also buy a digital bundle of all four films in the Avengers franchise, which includes Marvel’s The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

The film’s theatrical run is expanding June 28 with an introduction by the Russo Brothers and additional post-credits footage.